Monday, 2 September 2013

Holiday of a Lifetime: Disaster Diary

Holiday of a Lifetime: Disaster Diary by Megan de Kantzow (Omnibus Books)
PB RRP $15.99
ISBN 978-1-86291-998-3
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Anna has warned her parents that this holiday of a lifetime, as they insist on calling it, will be a disaster. And Anna should know. She is the disaster expert in the family. But no-one listens to her warnings, so by filling her backpack with a survival manual, a lucky seahorse charm and other essentials to help protect her family from potential disaster, Anna is as ready as she can be.

As the disasters mount, each incident a little worse that the last, Anna is hoping someone will finally heed her warnings. But it may just be up to her to save the day. Is she really ready for this?

This is a fantastic tale of travel, family and the small disasters that befall intrepid adventurers. Written in diary form, Anna’s thoughts are accessible, and she gives an intimate account of the family holiday, in a wonderfully dry and witty voice. Anna is a likeable character, with realistic and recognisable fears, refreshing views on life and complex relationships with her parents, younger brother and older sister Francine, who lives only to dance.

The writing is wonderful. One night in London Anna is woken by Francine yowling ‘like a dying bat’. She discovers her big sister is having a panic attack about the ballet workshop she is to join in the morning:

Actually, I knew how she was feeling. Sometimes I get to bed and close my eyes and all the things that have been worrying me come rushing out of the holes where I’d buried them, like spectres ready to suck me into a vortex of darkness and despair. Embarrassing moments rise up like ghosts. I imagine the mistakes I hid at the bottom of my school bag being exposed in glaring lights and capital letters to every single person I know. I’m caught in a swirling storm of thoughts where everything is the worst it could possibly be.
‘You’re just tired,’ I said.

As they travel through France, London, Venice and Finland, Anna’s observations are peppered with ‘interesting facts’ about the places they see. These are all skewed through Anna’s perspectives but still true. I was able to relive places I have visited through her descriptions and the chapter on the Louvre adventure was fabulous.

Themes of anxiety and family relationships are important to the 10+ age group and so much of it rang true. This will be a story enjoyed by many girls who want to read something entertaining and real, with an added emotional dimension.

I was thoroughly swept up in Anna’s family’s journey. I really loved Anna’s voice, and the characters of the other family members, including Gran who, while not on the holiday, was very much in Anna’s thoughts the whole time. I would gladly spend more time with this family if there were to be a sequel.

I have to admit also, to crying, towards the end of the book. Twice.

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